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Seeds of the Future
Summary: Gandalf explains to Elrond his part in planting a certain seed. Third place in the ALEC challenge ‘A Seed is Planted’.
Imladris: T.A. 2928:
"So how was your journey?" Elrond asked Mithrandir as the two settled in the Elf-lord’s study. Elrond handed the Wizard a goblet of mulled wine, which was welcome on this blustery, cold day in late Hithui. It was in fact, the first day of the season called Rhîw by the Elves and soon the passes would be blocked with the snow that was already falling in the high reaches of the Misty Mountains.
Mithrandir took an appreciative sip of the wine before answering, shifting his chair a bit more so he was facing the fireplace where a fire was burning brightly on the grate. Not that Elrond ever needed such a thing even on a day like today, but the Wizard was not an Elf and he appreciated the warmth.
"Well enough, though I thought for sure things would not go as I’d hoped," Mithrandir finally answered.
"Oh?" Elrond raised a delicate eyebrow. "You never did explain why you needed to leave so precipitously or where you were going."
Mithrandir raised a bushy eyebrow. "Precipitously? As I recall, Master Elrond, I did not disappear in the middle of the night nor did I forego breaking my fast before I left."
Elrond gave his friend a smile. "Yet you had planned to stay through autumn and you were with us only for a week."
"Yes, well, plans change, as they say," the Wizard replied with a twinkle in his eyes and then he sobered somewhat and his tone became graver. "My heart warned me that I must leave when I did, and a good thing, too."
"Tell me," Elrond said and there was a gravitas in his mien that told Mithrandir that it was the Lord of Imladris, scion of kings, who spoke and not simply Elrond Half-Elven, his long-time friend.
Mithrandir nodded, taking another appreciative sip of his wine. "As I said, my heart warned, nay I would say it urged me to leave when I did."
"Did you know where you were going?" Elrond asked. "You only said you needed to leave without explaining why."
"I know, and I apologize," Mithrandir said. "In truth, I was not sure where I was headed, only that I needed to head west. It was only when I reached the Angle and met with the Dúnedain that I felt I had arrived where I was needed."
"The Angle!" Elrond exclaimed in surprise. "What has happened? I have had no word from Arador of any trouble." His expression was one of concern but Mithrandir waved a hand in dismissal.
"There was no trouble, I assure you. All was well among the Dúnedain... well, nearly so," he amended.
Elrond raised an eyebrow. "Let me refill your goblet and you can explain."
Mithrandir handed him the goblet and a few minutes later the two friends were settled once again before the fire now burning more warmly with another log added to the grate.
"Well, as I said," Mithrandir began, "It was not until I reached the Angle that I knew this was where I was meant to be. It was a fair day when I came to the Last Bridge and stood there for a time, pondering my path. As I was standing there a small patrol of Rangers approached from the west. They were heading back home after having spent several weeks patrolling the area around Bree, or so I later learned. Almost as soon as I saw them I knew where I should be going....
"Fair day to you, my good fellows," the Wizard called out as he saw the cavalcade of about a dozen Men riding towards him. They were Dúnedain, wearing green or grey cloaks with the star cloak pins at their throats that were their only emblem. He did not recognize any of them, but was unsurprised at that. The leader of the patrol called a halt. He was older than his men, his hair and beard already showing streaks of grey. Most of the others, Mithrandir saw, were perhaps a couple of decades younger with one or two who were obviously stripling youths on their first patrol. The leader dismounted from his horse, handing the reins to one of his men and gave the Wizard a polite bow.
"And greetings to you, Lord Mithrandir. I am Lord Dírhael of the House of Aranarth. Whither do you go?"
"Well, as to that, Lord Dírhael, I have a mind to follow you home." He gave them a mischievous look and more than one eyebrow rose in surprise.
Lord Dírhael, on the other hand, laughed. "My lady wife is always complaining about the strays I bring home. What’s one more?"
"Indeed," Mithrandir replied, his eyes bright with amusement.
"I fear, though, that we have no horse to spare, else I would invite you to ride with us."
"Do not concern yourself with me, Lord Dírhael. I will make my own way. Just be sure to have a good meal waiting for me when I arrive."
Lord Dírhael laughed again and turned to his horse, removing a small saddle bag which he threw over a shoulder even as he addressed his men. "Ride on and alert my wife of my arrival with a guest," he ordered. "I will escort Lord Mithrandir. We should arrive before the supper hour."
Mithrandir noticed that none of the Dúnedain uttered a protest, but saluted their captain and made their way across the bridge, turning off the road to their right to ride through the wilderness towards the group of small villages where lived the remnant of the Northern Kingdom of the Númenórean exiles.
When the patrol was well away, the Dúnadan lord and the Wizard made their own way across the bridge, picking up the faint trail that led south into the Angle. Dírhael knew better than to question Mithrandir about the purpose of his journey, keeping the conversation to generalities about the state of the road between Fornost and Imladris and the doings of the people of the Breeland and the Shire. The Wizard offered his own news about the Elves and his travels east of the Misty Mountains, so their journey was pleasant and relaxing. They stopped at one point to rest and have a brief meal before continuing on and it was late afternoon as the sun was beginning to set when they came to the chief village of the Dúnedain, a walled town where the Chieftain of the Dúnedain resided and where Dírhael also made his home.
Passing the gate where the guards saluted them, Dírhael led the Wizard down an alleyway between the houses until they came to one in particular, a stone-built house, as they all were, consisting of two stories, which was not typical, with a flagged courtyard in front. Even as they were approaching, the front door opened and a young Woman, her hair caught in a tressure with what appeared to be small pearls sewn into the netting, came out and ran joyfully to the Man who opened his arms wide in greeting.
"You’re home!" the maiden cried out unnecessarily.
Dírhael laughed as he gathered the girl into his embrace and swung her around, planting a loving kiss upon her brow. "And I brought a guest," he said, turning to the Wizard who watched with amusement. "Mithrandir, may I present my daughter and the light of my eyes. Gilraen, this is the Wizard Mithrandir, also known in these parts as Gandalf."
The young lady gave the Wizard a proper curtsey. "I am honored to make your acquaintance, Lord Mithrandir."
The Wizard gave her a bow, sweeping off his tall hat. "And I am very honored to meet you, my dear."
"Well, let’s not stand on too much ceremony," Dírhael said with a smile as he took Gilraen’s arm. "My stomach is too empty for it."
Mithrandir and Gilraen both laughed and the three entered the house. Looking about, the Wizard saw that they were in a central foyer that extended to the back of the house. There were doors on either side, leading to a parlor on the left and what appeared to be a study or perhaps a library on the right, for he could see several shelves of books along one wall. A stairway leading to the second floor rose on the right just past the study. Dírhael motioned for Mithrandir to enter the parlor which was somewhat small and cramped and he suspected it got little use. His host gestured to another doorway, an open arch across which were hung heavy blue velvet drapes now pulled back to allow one to move through the opening unimpeded. Obviously, the drapes could be closed to provide privacy and keep out the cold. Passing through the arch the Wizard found himself in a much larger room where a fireplace dominated one wall where a fire was already laid against the coming chill of night. This room had a more lived-in feel to it and the Wizard suspected that it was where the family often gathered. Even as they entered, an older Woman came in from another doorway to their right. The scent of cooking that came from there told Mithrandir that it must be the kitchen.
The Woman was an older version of Gilraen, her dark hair caught under a tressure of emeralds, her figure as lithe as her daughter’s. She smiled when she saw them and Dírhael went to her and kissed her soundly. "Valar! But it’s good to be home again," he said as he released the Woman from his embrace.
She simply smiled. "And who did you bring home this time, my love?"
Dírhael laughed and quickly made the introductions. "This is my beloved wife, Ivorwen, and the reason why I ever bother to get up in the morning," he said and Mithrandir smiled when the lady rolled her eyes. She greeted the Wizard warmly and offered to take his cloak and hat and staff so he might relax. "I’ve had Morwen hold dinner off for another hour as I wasn’t sure just when you would arrive," she said even as she was hanging up the Wizard’s cloak on a peg. "Dírhael, why don’t you take our guest and show him where he can wash up. I’ve put him in the back bedroom that looks west."
Dírhael motioned for Mithrandir to follow him back the way they had come and led him upstairs where he was shown to a small bedroom where there was a pitcher and bowl for washing up. Then Dírhael showed him where the privy was. "We also have a small bathing room just off the kitchen and you are welcome to use it if you wish," the Man assured him.
"I suspect I would have to fight you for it though," Mithrandir retorted with a knowing smile and Dírhael laughed.
"I suspect you are right," he answered. "Bathing in cold streams is just not the same and I reek of horse as well."
"Go and enjoy your bath, my friend," Mithrandir said. "I am well for now."
Dírhael left him then and once the Wizard had freshened up he went back downstairs where Gilraen offered him a goblet of wine, which he gratefully accepted, sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs beside the fireplace while the young lady kept him company until it was time for dinner.
It was during dinner that Mithrandir began to have a glimmering of why he was there. The conversation had begun with generalities with wife and daughter filling them in on the latest village news as they started with a cold soup dish made from a variety of different late summer vegetables. Much of the news was rather pedestrian — who was mad at whom, who had a baby, who was ill — the little things that made up the life of a people. Dírhael dutifully nodded and made innocuous comments in all the right places, but Mithrandir could tell that the Man was not really interested. He, on the other hand, was fascinated to get this glimpse of life among Mortals, so different from what it was like among the Elves.
"So what else has happened while I was away?" Dírhael asked as he sipped his wine.
There was a look that passed between mother and daughter that Mithrandir could not interpret. Finally, Ivorwen spoke. "Gilraen and I were invited to tea with Lord Arador’s lady."
"That’s nice," Dírhael said as he continued eating, not really paying attention.
"Lord Arathorn was there as well," Ivorwen said, speaking carefully.
Mithrandir saw Dírhael’s expression go from politely interested to something darker. It wasn’t anger, but what exactly it was, he was unsure, only that Ivorwen’s words did not sit well with her husband.
"And why was Lord Arathorn at tea?" Dírhael asked coldly. "Should he not have been on patrol? I seem to recall he wasn’t due back for another six weeks."
"There was an accident," Ivorwen explained, "a flash flood near Tharbad. Lord Arathorn was attempting to rescue someone who was caught in it and was injured."
"How badly?" Dírhael asked, his expression now one of concern for the heir to the Chieftainship.
"He suffered a broken leg, and some cracked ribs, but nothing worse," Ivorwen assured him. "His men brought him back before returning to their patrol. He’s been convalescing for the last month. He’s only just had the splint removed and is already working on getting himself back into shape."
"And so he was at tea," Dírhael said.
"Yes," Ivorwen answered.
"And he asked again for Gilraen’s hand in marriage," his wife answered in a small voice.
Dírhael started to say something but stopped when Morwen, their cook and housekeeper entered and began deftly removing their soup bowls and then returned with the fish course, freshly caught trout, along with red potatoes and sugar-snap peas. Everyone remained quiet while Morwen bustled about. Ivorwen thanked her softly and the Woman gave them a brief curtsey before retiring to the kitchen to prepare the next course.
"So, Arathorn would go behind my back, would he?" Dírhael commented coldly.
"It wasn’t like that, Ada," Gilraen spoke up. "He merely stated his desire to court me and asked that when you returned from patrol that you would of your courtesy accept his suit."
"You are much too young for marriage, my dear," Dírhael replied. "Why your mother and I didn’t marry until we were well into our forties. I can’t imagine why Arathorn would seek your hand at this time against all custom."
"He loves your daughter," Ivorwen said.
"And I love him," Gilraen added.
"Daughter, you are far too young to know about love," Dírhael said in what Mithrandir thought was a condescending tone. "Why it was only yesterday that you were playing with your dolls."
"Ada!" Gilraen protested angrily. "I have not played with dolls since I was ten. I am a woman grown and I think I know what love is and I know I love Arathorn."
"Well, we will speak of it no longer," Dírhael said in an imperious tone. "You are too young to marry and that’s the end of it. Now, let us not bore our guest with our family squabbles. My apologies, Lord Mithrandir."
"No apologies are necessary, I assure you," the Wizard replied. "Perhaps, though, you would accompany me tomorrow when I pay my respects to Lord Arador and his heir."
Dírhael nodded. "I would be honored. As it is, I must give Arador my report anyway. We will go after breaking our fast."
For a few tense moments there was only silence between them and then Gilraen hesitantly asked Mithrandir about his own travels and for the rest of the evening he regaled them all with one tale after another and there was no further mention of betrothals or marriages.
Early next morning, Dírhael led Mithrandir to the residence of the Chieftain of the Dúnedain. Lord Arador was older than Dírhael, for his hair and beard were completely white. The two Men greeted one another with the kiss as between kinsmen and Arador gave the Wizard a warm welcome.
"It is rare that you visit us, Mithrandir," Arador said as he gestured for them to join him by the fire. The day had dawned cooler than expected with mist shrouding the town, a harbinger of the coming winter. Arador handed his two guests some mulled cider to help drive the chill from their bones. "I think the last time you were here was for my wedding." He gave them a sly smile.
"And for your son’s naming day," Mithrandir said with a grin. "And speaking of your son, I’d hope to see Lord Arathorn today."
"He’s out riding," Arador answered. "Left before any of us were awake. He’s driving himself to be ready for the winter patrols. He’s not been happy being cooped up here while his men are out risking their lives without him." He gave them a knowing look and Dírhael nodded in understanding while Mithrandir merely sipped his cider, eschewing to answer.
"At any rate," Arador continued, "he should be back soon enough. We have a strategy meeting in a little while to plan how we will be setting up the patrols between now and spring. You’ll be there, of course, Cousin," he said to Dírhael and the Man nodded.
"So, to what do we owe the pleasure of your presence, my lord?" Arador asked Mithrandir.
"Hmm... as to that, I am not sure," the Wizard replied. "I only know that I am needed here for some reason."
Arador lifted an eyebrow. "But you do not know what that reason is," he stated.
"Not precisely, but I think I may have an idea," Mithrandir answered, giving Dírhael a sideways glance. "I would ask for your indulgence in the meantime."
"You are welcome to remain among us for as long as you wish, Mithrandir," Arador replied. "Do not hesitate to call on me or my people for anything."
Mithrandir thanked the Chieftain of the Dúnedain and then excused himself, knowing that Arador and Dírhael needed to speak more privately about matters that concerned them. Walking out into the yard that fronted the Chieftain’s home, he saw a Man riding up, his features so like Arador’s that none could mistake him as anyone but the Chieftain’s son and heir.
"Greetings, Lord Arathorn," Mithrandir called out as the Man alighted from his horse. "I am glad to see you are well on the road to recovery."
Arathorn saw him and gave a glad cry in greeting. "Well met, my friend," he said as the two embraced. "I’d heard that Dírhael had come home with a guest but I did not know it was you."
Mithrandir laughed. "And you? How are you faring?"
"Well enough," the Man said with a shrug. "I grow stronger every day. Soon I will be fit enough to return to the patrols."
"I understand that you have been attempting to press your suit for the Lady Gilraen," Mithrandir said, deciding to get right to the point.
Arathorn grimaced. "Without success, I can assure you. Dírhael is against the marriage, but solely on the grounds that Gilraen is too young yet for marriage."
"One is never too young for love, or too old, for that matter," Mithrandir said. He paused, giving the Man a shrewd look. "Perhaps I can be of assistance to your suit."
Arathorn gave him a surprised look. "How?"
"Just leave it to me," the Wizard said reassuringly. "I will see what I can do to help you and the fair Gilraen."
Arathorn gave him a grateful look. "If you can bring Dírhael around, I would be eternally in your debt."
"Nonsense," Mithrandir said in protest. "Just be sure I get an invitation to the wedding and we’ll call the account squared."
Arathorn grinned. "I think that can be arranged." Then the two parted company and Mithrandir wandered through the village, stopping to speak to one person or another, casually sounding them out about their feelings towards Arathorn and the possibility of him marrying Lord Dírhael’s daughter. And as he spoke to the villagers, he began to think about how best to convince Dírhael that Gilraen marrying Arathorn was the best thing that could happen to the Dúnedain.
It was Ivorwen who actually gave him the weapon he needed. It was later that afternoon. He was sitting in the tiny garden in back of the house enjoying the warm early autumn sun, still contemplating on how to help Arathorn win Gilraen’s hand. Dírhael was away speaking with the other captains about patrol duties and the ladies of the house were about their daily chores so he had the garden to himself. Ivorwen came out at one point carrying a tray with a pot of tea and a plate of sweet biscuits and set them next to the Wizard who thanked her. She appeared nervous to him and he asked her to sit and tell him what troubled her. For a long moment she did not answer but finally she spoke.
"Last night I had a dream. It was...disturbing."
"In what way?" Mithrandir asked kindly.
"I was somewhere, a place I did not recognize. It was a green plain and in the midst of this plain there was a circle of thrones. I saw no one, but then from nowhere and everywhere there was a voice that cried out, ‘The storm approaches. Wherein is our hope?’ And then another voice said, ‘It lies with Isildur’s Heir and she who wears the tressure of stars.’ What can it mean?" She gave him a worried look. "I know I wish to see Gilraen married to Arathorn, and perhaps the dream was merely wish-fulfillment, yet, there seemed to be a ring of prophecy to the words spoken by the two voices, neither of which I recognized."
Mithrandir thought for a moment before speaking. "I will ponder on what you have told me. I believe that it is important for Arathorn and Gilraen to marry sooner rather than later. Let me see what I can do to convince Dírhael of this."
"If you can convince that stubborn old fool," Ivorwen said with a grateful look, "I would be...."
"Eternally in my debt, I know," Mithrandir said with a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. "Just be sure I get an invitation to the wedding."
She smiled at him. "I think that can be arranged."
That evening, Mithrandir, Dírhael and Ivorwen were sitting together before the fire in the gathering room. Gilraen had excused herself earlier, saying she wished to read before retiring and was now in the library deep in her book. For a time, the three of them sat in companionable silence, sipping on some mulled wine. Finally, though, Mithrandir decided to broach the subject of Arathorn’s suit.
"I saw Lord Arathorn this morning," he said. "He looks to be recovering nicely from his injuries."
"Yes, he seems fit enough," Dírhael answered, his expression neutral. "His father had the audacity to press his son’s suit after you left us. I told him that under no circumstances would I allow Gilraen to marry at this time."
"You keep saying that Gilraen is too young to marry," Mithrandir said, "yet it is not entirely unheard of for the women of the Dúnedain to marry young. So beyond that, to what exactly are you objecting? Are you, like many fathers, reluctant to see a daughter of the house leave to cleave to another?" He gave the Man a shrewd yet understanding look.
Dírhael snorted, shaking his head and for a long moment he did not answer, merely staring at the fire blazing away on the grate. Finally he looked up. "Arathorn is a stern man of full age."
"And?" Mithrandir pressed.
"And I deem he will be Chieftain sooner than men look for; yet my heart forbodes that he will be short-lived."
Mithrandir suppressed a shiver, for he saw that Dírhael’s words were ones of foresight, not dissimilar to what his wife had experienced, though it was obvious to the Wizard that Ivorwen had had a more direct message from the Powers concerning the fate of Middle-earth.
Before he could answer the Man, Ivorwen spoke up, her tone pleading. "The more need of haste, then, my husband, if what you say is true!"
"Ivorwen speaks truly, my friend," Mithrandir said, then turned to the Woman. "Tell him your dream, dear."
For a moment Ivorwen hesitated, but when Dírhael gave her an enquiring look, she complied. When she was finished, both husband and wife looked troubled. "What can it mean, though?" Dírhael finally asked, looking directly at the Wizard.
"As to that," Mithrandir replied, "the message is clear enough to those willing to hear it. The heir is obviously Arathorn and the woman can only be Gilraen, for that is what her name means, does it not?"
Dírhael sucked in a breath. "But many of our noblewomen wear such tressures."
"But not all are given that particular name," Ivorwen pointed out. "I... we chose it because... oh dear... I don’t remember now." She gave them an apologetic look.
Dírhael gestured impatiently. "It hardly matters why we named her thus. My question still remains: how do we know these words speak of our daughter and not another?"
"Simple, my friend," Mithrandir replied with grave sympathy. "The dream came to your wife, the mother of your daughter, and not to another."
Dírhael still looked unconvinced, but Ivorwen nodded. "The days are darkening before the storm, and great things are to come. If Arathorn and Gilraen wed now, hope may be born for our people, my love; but if they delay, it will not come while this age lasts and we may all live to regret it."
"This is not a decision that can be made in haste, Dírhael, yet haste is needed," Mithrandir said. "Your wife speaks truly: a storm is gathering and darkness is rising. You know this. Elrond of Imladris knows it. If the Dúnedain are ever to rise again it will be in this age and in no other. I firmly believe that Arathorn and Gilraen are meant to marry now."
For a moment silence fell among them, then Dírhael sighed. "I cannot make a decision tonight."
Mithrandir nodded, expecting no less from the Man. "All I ask is that you think about it." Then he gave Dírhael a shrewd look. "Have you spoken to Arathorn at all? Have you listened to him when he speaks of Gilraen and his love for her?"
Now the Man looked embarrassed. "I confess, I have not given him that courtesy."
"Then, I think it’s high time that you did, my friend. High time." And with that, he excused himself, leaving the couple alone with their thoughts, satisfied that he’d done what he could to plant a seed of doubt in the Man’s mind as to the rightness of his own position concerning his daughter....
Elrond gave his guest a shrewd look. "So, did Dírhael relent and allow Arathorn his suit?"
"Eventually," Mithrandir admitted, "which is why I have returned here only now. That Man could give a mule lessons in stubbornness."
Elrond smiled. "But he finally came around."
"Oh, yes. The betrothal was announced and the wedding set for next summer." The Wizard smirked. "I already have my invitation."
Elrond now laughed. "I’m sure mine will be coming soon enough. I will have to think on a suitable wedding gift for the happy couple in the meantime." Then his smile faded and he gave the Wizard a worried look. "That dream...."
"Ah, yes. Interesting, wouldn’t you say?" Mithrandir replied with a knowing look.
"Oh... is that the dinner bell I hear?" He stood, draining his goblet. "Come, my friend. Let us to sup and put aside dark thoughts. The storm is indeed coming and the darkness is rising, but it is not yet here. Until it comes, let us enjoy the brightness of the day."
For a moment, Elrond simply stared at him, but then nodded, seeing the wisdom in his friend’s words. He stood as well. "Yes, you are correct. Let us indeed enjoy the brightness of the day while we still can." Together, Elf-lord and Wizard left the study to join the rest of the denizens of Imladris for dinner, happily discussing possible wedding gifts for the Heir of Isildur and his bride as they went.
Words are Sindarin.
Hithui: October/November of the Gregorian calendar.
Rhîw: Winter, which began on 25 Hithui (30 November).
1. At this time Arador is Chieftain of the Dúnedain. He will be slain by Trolls in 2930 and his son, Arathorn, will become Chieftain, but only until 2933. Gilraen is 21 years old.
2. Gilraen’s name means ‘One adorned with a tressure set with small gems (like stars) in its network’. A tressure, also called a snood, was, according to Tolkien, ‘used only by women of high rank among the "Rangers", descendants of Elros, as they claimed.’ [Vinyar Tengwar 42:11, ‘The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor,’ (July 2001)]
3. Some of the dialogue between Mithrandir, Dírhael and Ivorwen has been adapted from Appendix A, ‘The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen’.
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